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Until the beginning of the 19th Century, Dublin was confined to the area between the canals but from the early 1800s onwards there was a rapid expansion of the city. This was due in part to the emergence of a middle class of merchants and civil servants who wished to live in more salubrious conditions than those in the city with its open drains and disease-ridden, densely populated, noisy streets. Nowhere was the rapid development of the suburbs more evident than in Rathmines. John Taylor’s map (map 1) of the environs of Dublin 1816 shows Rathmines to be a sparsely populated area with large tracts of open ground.


Samuel Lewis described Rathmines in 1837 as ‘a considerable village and suburb of Dublin …..containing 1600 inhabitants. Twelve years since Rathmines was only known as an obscure village; it now forms a fine suburb, commencing at Portobello Bridge, and extending in a continued line of handsome houses, with some pretty detached villas, for about one mile and a half.’ [i]


The Ordnance Survey Map of 1837 (map 3) already shows much development, with several adjoining large houses surrounded by gardens along the west side and terraced housing along most of the east side of Rathmines Road. Castlewood Avenue is shown but there are only two houses on it. On the north side stands Castlewood Lodge, and on the south side there is a building site which was to become Castlewood House[ii], the home of John Holmes, a future Rathmines Town Commissioner, one of the main developers of the surrounding area and the owner of Belgrave Square.


Rathmines Board of Commissioners

[i] Samuel Lewis, Topographical Dictionary (Dublin, 1837)

[ii] Thom’s Directory (Dublin, 1846)